An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Physical Education
De La Salle College,
Churchtown, Dublin 14
Roll number: 60310E
Date of inspection: 5 March 2009
REPORT ON THE QUALITY OF LEARNING AND TEACHING IN PHYSICAL EDUCATION
This report has been written following a subject inspection in De La Salle College, conducted as part of a whole school evaluation. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Physical Education and makes recommendations for the further development of the teaching of this subject in the school. The evaluation was conducted over two days during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with students and their teacher, examined students’ work, and had discussions with the teacher. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and the teacher’s written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and subject teacher.
De La Salle College provides Physical Education as a core subject on the curriculum for junior cycle and Transition Year (TY) students. All of these class groups receive one double period per week for the subject, which is the minimum time required to support the implementation of a comprehensive physical education programme. It is regrettable that Leaving Certificate students do not receive any timetabled allocation for Physical Education. Through the omission of Physical Education from senior students’ timetables, it is possible that students may inadvertently form the perception that physical activity is a low priority in their development. All agencies promoting health and wellness advocate a commitment to a lifestyle that includes regular physical activity. It is important that schools afford all their students the opportunity, through the formal curriculum, to develop a full and complete understanding of their physical functionality and the factors that underpin engagement in physical activity, exercise and sport. One of the principal aims of Physical Education is to develop students’ knowledge, skills and attitudes that enable them to lead physically active and balanced lifestyles, which contribute to their overall health and wellbeing. As part of its next curriculum review, it is recommended that the school reflect on its provision for Physical Education and work towards providing the subject for all students in line with the recommendations of the Department of Education and Science (DES), Rules & Programmes for Secondary Schools.
The physical education department consists of one qualified teacher who has extensive experience in teaching the subject. It is commendable that participation in a number of activity specific courses has been undertaken as a means of continuous professional development (CPD). However, due to a variety of circumstances, the school has not had the opportunity to engage in the programme of in-service provided by the DES for the implementation of the revised junior cycle physical education syllabus, or the recently launched Action for Life health-related activity programme. It is recommended that the support service website, www.jcpe.ie be consulted with a view to determining what level of support is available to help implement the revised syllabus in the school.
The school possesses a number of high quality facilities to support the teaching and learning of Physical Education. The indoor facilities include a large sports hall and two squash courts, complete with viewing areas. In addition, a number of rooms in the sports complex have been fitted with a range of high quality fitness equipment. A weight training room has a combination of free-weights and resistance machines that are suitable to teach all aspects related to muscular fitness and functional development. Two additional rooms contain a range of cardio-vascular equipment including treadmills, rowing machines, elliptical trainers and bicycles, with one room fully dedicated to spinning bicycles. These two rooms provide a high quality environment to teach the concepts related to the development of metabolic fitness, in addition to performance-related training. The school also has two large playing pitches. Good provision is made for the maintenance of the sports facilities, all of which appeared to be in very good condition.
There is sufficient equipment available in the storerooms to support most activity strands of the syllabus. The replacement and purchase of additional items is on a needs basis and it was reported that management is fully supportive in this regard. A DVD player and laptop computer are available to support teaching and learning in Physical Education and the school computer room is also available upon request. A health and safety statement is prepared to ensure the welfare of all students participating in the physical education programme in keeping with good practice. It is recommended that the coats fixture in the sports hall be removed as this may present a potential hazard.
A range of extra-curricular activities is organised and facilitated by the school including athletics, badminton, basketball, Gaelic football, rugby and table-tennis. In addition, students are facilitated by the school to participate in regular orienteering events which are organised by a local club at weekends. It is commendable that some of the activities provided are organised on a recreational basis, which supports students who may not be interested in competitive sport but who value and enjoy participating in exercise and physical activity. Sports events that contribute to a positive school atmosphere are often held throughout the year, including the annual sports day and regular staff versus students matches. Coaching and officiating courses for Gaelic games are also offered to students and a significant number have received certification at foundation and level-one. Many of these students volunteer to assist with coaching and refereeing in the local primary schools, which is a very positive initiative and highly praiseworthy. A number of staff members are involved in organising and coaching the extra-curricular activities and deserve great credit for their contribution. A number of past students of the school currently assist in coaching some of the sports provided, which is particularly noteworthy. The school’s achievements at local, regional and national level in many of the organised activities are admirable. The contribution of extra-curricular sport and physical activity to the whole school community is greatly valued, and the support provided by the school is highly commended.
There was a good quality of planning and preparation for Physical Education evident in this school. The subject department planning process is informed by the planning structures developed at a whole school level. A thorough and accessible subject plan has been developed for Physical Education that identifies many of the aspects related to the effective organisation and delivery of the programme in the school.
There was clear evidence that much work has gone into the development of the subject in the school. Planning includes the overall aims and objectives of the physical education programme, identifies strategies for the inclusion of students with additional or special educational needs, outlines the range of possible teaching and learning strategies, addresses health and safety issues and provides a number of references to common topics that are shared with other curricular subject. The subject plan also outlines the programme of work to be completed with each year group. Up to four strands of the junior cycle syllabus are provided and these are supported by schemes of work for each block of learning. Each scheme of work is well constructed and, in addition to the subject content, identifies the intended learning outcomes, knowledge and skills that students should acquire. This is good practice as it provides a clear focus and direction for students’ learning. The expansion of the schemes of work to identify the possible modes of assessment is recommended.
Whilst there is a strong concentration on games, the programme achieves some balance through the inclusion of modules on athletics, adventure activities and concepts of physical fitness. The remaining strands of the syllabus, depending on the available resources and the context of the school, should be incorporated into the subject plan. This will provide students with a broader perspective for their learning of the principles underpinning the study of human movement. In addition to the normal range of games activities, the TY plan includes a residential trip to an outdoor education centre and detailed modules on health-related and performance-related fitness. The inclusion of these activities is commended as they help to promote personal development in keeping with the ethos of the TY programme. The inclusion of some additional certified courses should be considered as these would provide students with further tangible outcomes for their studies in Physical Education.
The physical education department has gathered a range of resources to support teaching and learning of the activities covered in the planned programme. A number of relevant books, factsheets, worksheets and videos have been compiled and are used as a reference for the enhancement of knowledge and skill competencies. A number of resource materials have been gathered from the various national governing bodies (NGB) of the activities provided, which support the teaching and learning of the technical aspects of these sports. To build on this good practice, it is recommended that these materials be used to develop additional task and resource cards to support students’ learning during their lessons. It is also recommended that the school investigate the provision and use of digital video and additional modes of information and communication technology (ICT) to support the teaching and learning of Physical Education.
There was a high standard of teaching and learning observed in the physical education lessons visited. Lessons were well prepared with the necessary equipment and supporting resources set up prior to commencement. Students changed quickly into their kit and presented for their lessons in a mature and orderly manner. The content of the lesson was introduced following the recording of attendance and participation. A short theoretical component preceded the physical activities in the lessons observed. In one instance, students were seated in front of the whiteboard and a rationale for their lesson was presented along with the intended learning objectives, which is good practice. Students were engaged by linking the lesson content to their own sporting and exercise experiences, which also served to provide a context for their learning. The whiteboard was used to very good effect to highlight the main points of the lesson and to provide students with the knowledge required to inform their participation. Of particular note, was the inclusion of psychological factors, such as motivation and confidence, as part of a lesson on the components of fitness. As a result of this good practice, students’ understanding of the complex inter-relationships between many factors affecting participation in physical activity, exercise and sport were further developed. The information on the whiteboard also provided a reference for students throughout their lessons. During this initial phase of the lessons, questioning was effectively used to assist students in recapping on their previous learning and to establish links with the content of the current lesson.
In the lessons visited, the topics taught were components of physical fitness and badminton. Lessons commenced with well-structured, gradual and progressive warm-up activities that were appropriate to the focused topics. Basic physiology was effectively integrated into this phase of the lessons and students identified the effects of exercise on their body temperature, circulation and respiration rates. Students were given responsibility to lead parts of the warm-up activities, such as the stretching exercises, which was good practice as it afforded them opportunities to demonstrate and apply their learning. Significantly more time was spent during this phase of the lessons with younger students in developing their technical competence in the execution of the stretching exercises. This time was also used to ensure students developed their understanding of the role of flexibility to musculoskeletal health and performance. This student-centred approach to learning in Physical Education is highly commended.
Lessons were well structured and paced to ensure that the key concepts were learnt in the time available. Tasks set were mostly open-ended, progressive and provided sufficient challenge for students commensurate with their ability, which ensured that all students were fully included in the practical activities. Tasks were also well defined and students were given full responsibility for their own learning, which was carefully monitored by their teacher. Students were appropriately challenged both physically and cognitively. In a badminton lesson, tactical application of the variety of shots was effectively integrated into all tasks to ensure that students’ decision-making skills were continuously challenged. This ensured that each progressive task was purposeful in promoting students’ ability to understand and play the game. Resources were also used effectively to enhance learning. The use of a range of scientific instruments, explanation and worksheets ensured that students developed a good understanding of the components of physical fitness. Students demonstrated a high level of engagement, maturity and commitment to the technical use of all equipment, and in their adherence to the test protocols that were outlined at the start of the lesson.
The management and organisation of the class activities and of the available space and resources were very effective. Constant mobility by the teacher ensured that students were afforded regular attention, either individually or in small groups, which assisted them in their learning and progress. An excellent rapport was evidenced between students and their teacher and all classroom interactions observed were caring and respectful. A wealth of posters, charts and photographs adorn the corridors and walls of the sports facilities, which provide a vibrant, engaging, informative and motivational atmosphere conducive to participation in physical activity. Students observed during the inspection demonstrated a high level of engagement and enjoyment of their physical education lessons.
Lessons concluded with a recap on the purpose of the activities and tasks, with the information on the whiteboard used to reinforce the key points of the lesson. The content of the next lesson was also introduced to students, which is good practice as it helps students to view their learning as part of a continuum of progressive experiences.
Assessment takes place in all physical education lessons through observation of students’ engagement with the tasks set and through regular oral questioning to determine students’ understanding of the various topics. It is commendable that the physical education department has begun to engage with the process of self-assessment and peer-assessment strategies for junior cycle students. This process will help students develop a more in-depth understanding of the key concepts for each module. Whilst good work and some reflection have taken place in the area of assessment for Physical Education, it is recommended that the current approach to assessment be expanded. The physical education department should aim to develop a system whereby students’ work and progress can be recorded after each term or block of learning. The retention of student self-assessment and peer-assessment worksheets, the completion of ‘rich’ tasks at the end of each block of learning and the inclusion of a practical performance component, would help to provide a diverse range of methods to assess students’ engagement and progress.
Detailed records of attendance and participation are maintained for all physical education classes. Comments on students’ progress in Physical Education are included in reports home to parents four times per year. The frequency of reporting is commendable.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The school possesses a number of high quality facilities available to support the teaching and learning of Physical Education.
· The physical education programme is well organised and its delivery is supported by a good quality of planning and preparation.
· Detailed and well presented programmes of work have been developed for each year group.
· There was a very good quality of teaching and learning in Physical Education observed in this school.
· Lessons were purposeful and well structured with open-ended tasks that ensured students of all abilities were appropriately challenged, both physically and cognitively.
· Lessons were characterised by an excellent student-teacher rapport and a student-centred approach to learning in Physical Education.
· The sports complex is excellently presented to create a vibrant, engaging, informative and motivational atmosphere conducive to participation in physical activity.
· Physical Education is included on all reports sent to parents.
· A good range of extra-curricular sports are organised and delivered by a number of dedicated teachers and past students.
· The contribution of extra-curricular sport and physical activity to the whole school community is greatly valued.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· Physical Education should be included on the timetable for all students in line with the recommendations of the Department of Education and Science (DES), Rules & Programmes for Secondary Schools.
· The junior cycle physical education support service website, www.jcpe.ie, should be consulted to determine the level of support available to the school in furthering the implementation of the revised syllabus.
· The coats fixture in the sports hall should be removed.
· A number of additional task and resource cards should be developed for each activity module to support students’ learning and to provide a record of their engagement.
· It is recommended that the current approach to assessment be expanded.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of Physical Education and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published February 2010